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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The NFL and its referees reached an agreement and ended their labor stalemate at midnight Thursday.
That means the replacement refs are out and the “real” referees return to work for Thursday’s night’s Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens matchup.
The news couldn’t have come soon enough for Texans star receiver Andre Johnson, who has been outspoken about the shortcomings of the replacement refs, many of whom had come from college football ranks as low as Division III. Johnson reiterated his criticisms on Wednesday, just days removed from an embarrassing weekend in the NFL where the replacement refs made numerous mistakes and capped it off by making the wrong call on a Hail Mary game-winning touchdowns during the NFL’s signature Monday Night Football broadcast.
The Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks on the now infamous Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate that was clearly intercepted but ruled a touchdown on the field and following the replay. That was motivation enough for Roger Goodell to get a deal done and end the lockout.
“The last time I talked about this I said you won’t think it’s funny in a few weeks and it happened the other night,” Johnson said Wednesday afternoon. “Right now Green Bay is not loving it. I sat there and just shook my head watching the play. It’s on TV so much you hate looking at it.
“I just think they need to hurry up and bring the referees back. I just think the game is too fast for the officials that are out there now. I think sometimes they are just making calls not seeing everything that is going on and it has an effect on the game. You see a lot of coaches getting fined, players getting fined for saying things to the ref,” he continued. “But this game is so competitive. Football players, we’re competitive and we want to win. Any little call can have a big effect on the game whether it’s a third-down play or anything. We’re competitive … I could playing football out on the street with some kids and something goes wrong that I don’t agree with I’m going to let them know how I feel about it because I’m competitive and I want to win.”
But clearly it become evident in Week 3 of the NFL season that these referees were getting in the way of winning and that they had become too noticeable to the game. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 for grabbing a referee after his team lost on a controversial field goal at the end and Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing the officials.
Amazingly, the Packers were not fined for the criticism of what took place in their game which could be the difference between making the playoffs and not for them.
“It’s not a surprise to see coaches and players saying things to the refs because guys want to win,” Johnson said. “We are not out there just for fun. We want to win games and some of the calls that are made has an effect on the game.”
While Johnson had been the most outspoken on the replacement officials, the rest of his teammates and coaching staff tried their best to stay out of the controversy.
“I can’t get involved with that,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday when the subject of the replacement officials came up. “I know that’s not the answer you want, but I have so many other things that I have to worry about. I’m sure they’ll get it worked out. Those guys do a great job, they always have. I’m sure they’ll get it worked out and they’ll be back.
“We’ve got to stay focused on playing right now. We can’t get caught up in that. Today is, to me, a prime example as we practice really well today. Our guys really focused, so I really liked how they came off a long road trip and came back to work today.”
Texans running back Arian Foster refused to bite Wednesday afternoon even after it seemed clear a deal between the NFL and its officials was about to e reached.
“I can’t really speculate on that,” Foster said. “It’s one of those things that’s out of my hands, so if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We still have to go out there and play.”
Johnson agreed that as long as the replacements officials were out there that he had to do his best to perform. But clearly he had experienced first-hand some of the flaws with the officials, who were primarily from the college ranks. In his case, Johnson said the defensive backs were allowed to continue making contact down the field which is allowed in the college game until the ball is up in the air.
“When you have basically college officials they tend to call it that way,” Johnson said. “That’s been the big thing as far as me because (defensive backs) are what I have to deal with. I think sometimes some of the helmet-to-helmet contact, things are not being called from my what I have dealt with over the past few weeks.”